May 21, 2024

GNA Forest Fest Wins a 2024 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

At the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence (L-R): Tom Gilbert, President, Pennsylvania Environmental Council; Nur Ritter (with trophy), GNA Stewardship Manager; Jessica Shirley, Acting Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Brad Flamm (with plaque), WCU Director of Sustainability; and Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.West Chester University has been honored with a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for “A Forest Festival Celebrating 50 years of the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Education.” These awards, presented on April 30 in Harrisburg, highlight the best in environmental innovation and expertise throughout the Commonwealth.

The Fall 2023 Forest Festival attracted more than 200 individuals from WCU as well as partners and community members to campus and served as a testament to the University’s dedication to preserving the land and the vibrant ecological and biotic communities within the Gordon Natural Area (GNA). The event honored the many people who contributed to the establishment and care of the GNA and acknowledged the ongoing work and partnerships that will ensure its long-term preservation.

The 2024 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence were presented by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to recognize 22 projects completed by schools, businesses, and community organizations around the state. Applications were evaluated for their degree of environmental protection, innovation, partnership, economic impact, consideration of climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice, as well as outcomes achieved.

“This year’s Environmental Excellence honorees showcase the innovative ways we can protect our environment and shape a more sustainable future here in Pennsylvania,” noted DEP Interim Acting Secretary Jessica Shirley. “Together we will spur the next generation of environmental stewards. These projects represent our ability to work together and preserve Pennsylvania’s natural resources.”

WCU Director of Sustainability Brad Flamm and GNA Stewardship Manager Nur Ritter represented the University at the event.

Ritter and Biology Professor Jessica Schedlbauer were the driving forces behind the Forest Festival, which celebrated the University’s commitment to protecting the land and highlighted the research, teaching, and recreational activities occurring at the GNA. The event featured the unveiling of educational signage developed in collaboration with the Delaware Tribe of Indians and their sister nations, the Delaware Nation, and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, and the growing partnership between the University and these indigenous nations.

The GNA serves as a refuge for local wildlife, native plants, and other biota and provides a setting for researchers, nature lovers, artists and poets, runners, dog walkers, and visitors looking to reconnect with the natural world. Its protection has yielded invaluable benefits to students, faculty, and staff of the University, neighboring municipalities, researchers from state agencies, other academic institutions, and non-profit organizations, as well as the flora, fauna, fungi, and other creatures that live within the boundaries of the GNA.

Read about the Forest Fest anniversary event here.

Visit this site for photos from the GNA anniversary, plus a link to the pdf of the anniversary booklet.

Read more about the GNA at the website.


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